Additional iron tsuba
 of collector interest

Early records indicate 'Heianjo-sukashi' was the term used to identify early Kyo-sukashi tsuba. This thinking has been altered in later years with the current usage of 'Kyo' being accepted descriptive terminology for all examples of this school. Both Kyo-sukashi and Kanayama schools produced tsuba in 'ji-sukashi,' which was a departure from early Tosho and Katchushi.

Kyo-sukashi 'Mitsu domo' and 'Watchigai' sukashi

This example dates to the early Muromachi period and closely resembles a sword guard presented by SASANO in his publication Japanese Sword Guard Masterpieces Part One, page 60. The sukashi is identified as 'Mitsu domo' (coma) at the top and bottom and Watchigai (interlocking rings) joining the rim to the hitsu-ana. The style of hitsu-ana being long and round, or half moon in shape are characteristic of early production. This tsuba shows a well-balanced design and is in a wonderful state of preservation with uniform deep color and depth of patina. The quality of iron appears to be excellent.

H/W 7.6 x 7.5 cm — Rim 5 mm — Early Muromachi

Kyo-sukashi 'Kaji-Kichi’' sukashi

H/W 7.6 x 7.5 cm — Rim 5 mm — Momoyama
NBTKK Tokubetsu Hozon

Although the dimensions and even the design arrangement of this tsuba is almost identical to the previous 'Mitsu-domo’' image displayed, there are indications this piece was produced somewhat later. The iron has a beautiful luster and there appears significant tekkotsu visible on the rim, while the design features are identified as mulberry leaves, called 'Kaji' and the Japanese character 'Kichi' meaning lucky in English, that relate to the Tanabata festival, an annual celebration which draws its cultural connection from early times.

A collector notation regarding the KANAYAMA pieces displayed herein; all examples imaged here have come to me directly or indirectly from private collection(s) and were purchased during recent years. It has been my experience tsuba of this grade have been exceedingly difficult to find in the past and are almost non-existent on the market today. The image below depicts Japanese sword and tsuba collector and Karate Master Abe Keigo.

'Kari Mata' Kanayama Muromachi

H/W 7.1 x 6.9 cm — Seppa 5.5 mm — Rim 7 mm
Tokubetsu Hozon to Kanayama

The design at the top and bottom is of a 'spear head' which is remarkably like an early type of 'arrowhead' but larger in scale. The hitsu-ana are formed with 'wild geese' in flight, the latter a more common design in early pieces. This guard is typically small, compact and thick, while providing a sense of strength or power induced in part by the influence of the sukashi on the viewer. There is tekkotsu on the wide rim and an even patina commensurate with the age of the plate.

Kanayama 'Hikiryu' sukashi Muromachi

H/W 7.1 mm — Rim 5 mm

The design on this Kanayama tsuba translates to double crossbars in ancient Japanese. The vertical bars represent an early Kirimon Kamon of the Samurai family who owned it. The crossbar design in general is said to be a conventionalism of a Dragon (Ryu). There is also a reference in Sasano, relating to the Ashikaga family, rulers of Japan and Shoguns, and their adaption of the design on their Mon.

Tekkotsu is in evidence on the plate and abundant on the rim of this tsuba. The design is balanced and engaging, while close examination reveals a mon of the 'Satake-Daimyo' distinctly visible (with magnification) on the copper insert at the top of the nakago-ana.

Kanayama "Kiri Karigane Kagi" sukashi Momoyama

H/W 7.0 x 6.9 cm — Rim 5.3 mm — Momoyama
NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon

Wild geese and thunderbolts constitute the design on this Momoyama period sword guard. Although many kamayama pieces continue to elude precise interpretation due to their abstract subjects, the sukashi on this tsuba is readily identified with and the pronounced tekkotsu on rim and surface stand out. The plate itself is perfectly balanced by the arrangement and is a beautiful example of Kanayama production, both well-crafted and in a fine state of preservation.

Kanayama "Bamboo and Ginger" sukashi
Early Edo period

H/W 7.0 x 6.7 cm — Rim 6 mm — Edo Period
NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon

This tsuba shows excellent iron with depth of color and a lustrous surface. The rim is particularly impressive with lumpy granular 'iron bones' clearly visible on its sides as well as edges. Sasano in his previously referenced "Silver Edition," presents a remarkable likeness to this sword guard on page 172.

Interestingly but not surprisingly, there are indications of Yagyu similarity, beginning with the iron color as well as the unusual rectangular shape of the nakago-ana, the bold design, the use of bamboo as a main motif and the thickness of the tsuba. References concede the production of these two schools are close in many aspects. Certification is to Kanayama.

Kanayama 'Crane & Bamboo sukashi' Muromachi

This tsuba exhibits many of the characteristics of this school in its size, excellent iron, patina of black purplish color and prominent abundant tekketsu. The design incorporates a 'crane' shrouded in its up-turned wings and 'bamboo leaves' positioned to form a hitsu-ana for kogai. The vertical posts appear to be abstract 'bamboo stems', all of which combine to present a peerless example of a classic Kanayama masterpiece of the Muromachi period.

H/W 6.8 x 6.9 cm — Rim 6.0 mm — Late Muromachi
NBTHK Hozon to Kanayama